Climate Action

Johnny’s Diary of G7

Johnny Dabrowski, Earth Day Consultant


Trieste, Italy

The opening of the G7 Summit

The author and EARTHDAY.ORG youth leader, Johnny Dabrowski in Trieste at the G7, 2024

DAY 1: G7 Summit, Trieste & Castello Miramare, Italy
WEATHER: Sunshine, very warm.
MOOD: Excited

6:45 AM: It’s my first G7 Summit, and as a result I was a little stressed so I woke up early. Too early! Later in the morning I’m meeting with Laura Frigenti – the CEO of Global Partnership for Education. She’s been a long time supporter of climate education in schools and it was Laura who invited EARTHDAY.ORG to attend the G7 Education Summit. So, I do not want to let her down! Hence my anxiety. I decided to drink a strong espresso and go for a morning run around Trieste – a magical historical Italian harbor city, on the banks of the northern Adriatic. It is stunning.

7:30 AM: As I headed back to the hotel after my run, the feeling that something big was going on, is palpable. There are police everywhere, Italian navy ships are just off the coast and so close that you can seem and there are helicopters encircling the skyline. You get a little paranoid in these situations and even a peaceful Italian granny seemed like she might be a secret service agent. She wasn’t – but I think she was as intrigued by all the security as I was! The stakes are high, the Education Ministers of all G7 countries; Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, UK and the US are all here. As well as the heads of United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and special representatives of Brazil, Ukraine and the African Union. This sounds daft but I literally said to myself – “this is very serious, stay focused!” For a campaign with the aim of integrating climate change into school curricula worldwide, this moment is truly perfect as all the decision making policymakers are here in one place.

10:30 AM: I arrived at the Savoia Hotel where all the heads of the delegations are staying, and I quickly spotted Julie Desangles – Laura’s Frigenti chief of staff, a fantastic manager, ally and a very friendly person. April Golden,a Senior Partnerships Specialist and Iacopo Viciani, a Senior Policy Advisor and Elizabetta Galgania, a Media and Communications expert from GPE are all here too, it is an impressive group and it is great to meet everyone.

Laura then arrived and I thanked her for being part of the GPE delegation and we discussed the importance of climate change education being integrated across multiple subjects in all schools – K- Grade 12, globally. It is a core mission that EARTHDAY.ORG has been actively advocating for over 50 years. It’s a shared goal of ours. We discuss how the G7 Summit could work as a platform to encourage countries to ‘green-up’ their curricula. We will meet back up later, at 4pm, to walk over to the first panel together.

4:00 PM: After working for a few hours, and enjoying a truly fantastic Italian pasta for lunch, I had time for a quick dip in the Adriatic. It was warm but very refreshing and being in the sea reminds me of what I am here for, fighting for the planet basically. That sounds a bit grandiose but that is what this is all about. Education stands at the core of meaningful climate action, without it there are no new skilled workers to power the green economy, no new inventions, no innovation, no honesty and the world would be full of climate change deniers. EARTHDAY.ORG believes that we need climate education in all schools in every single country to meet the mess we have created, head on. I know I am on my soap box but that is why I was invited to Trieste!

4:30 PM: I quickly get changed and make my way back to the Savoia Hotel to meet the GPE team and together we head over to the Museum Salone Degli Incanti, accompanied by four security officers, every delegation gets security while they are here. It does feel a little surreal. Not going to lie!

Conversation with GPE CEO Laura Frigenti at Savoia Hotel

Opening session, from left: Minister Valditara, Stefania Giannini, Laura Frigenti, representative of UNIDO, representative of Brazil

The conference starts at around 530pm in a lecture room in the Museum, Ministers of Education from all G7 countries arrive, led by the host of the summit – Minister Giuseppe Valditara of Italy. After the opening remarks the first panel of the Summit starts – the GPE, UNESCO, Brazil, African Union and UNIDO lead as featured speakers. I learned a lot but the fact that stood out was that the world consumes two billion cups of coffee every single day and that investing in sustainable coffee production in Africa could create 10 million jobs.

After the panel is over everyone is invited to attend an photography exhibition by the world known Brazilian photographer, Sebastiao Salgado. The exhibited works focus on the coffee industry and the stories of the people working in it. Besides my admiration for Salgado, this is the first opportunity to start really networking so I grasp a glass of prosecco and start reaching out to the staff from the various nation’s education ministries.

7:30 PM: The time has come for perhaps the most important part of the day – the official G7 Summit reception at the historic Castello Miramare situated on the rocky Adriatic coast-line just a short drive away. The Ministers and the heads of the delegations enter their limousines and the rest of us board shuttle buses, all escorted by police cars and motorcycles as we depart for the castle.

On the way I had a fruitful conversation with Suzuki Hiroyuki, secretary to the Japanese Minister of Education, about greening the curricula in Japanese schools as well as their approach to renewable energy. We exchanged cards. This is when you realize what makes these events so important and powerful, you are meeting the people who can effect real change and people want to talk and to listen.

The shuttle bus nearly reaches our final destination but for the last part of the journey – just near Miramare – we have to be transported to the castle itself in smaller minivans. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Nathanael Douglas from the US Department of Education and we had a chat about climate education and EARTHDAY.ORG’s work in the United States.

After a short press conference led by Italy’s Minister Valditara, in a gothic wooden ballroom, we were invited to attend dinner, on the castle’s beautiful terrace. I can see four navy ships surrounding the castle to protect the delegates and I suspect, to show a little bit of Italian pride in their navy. It is impressive, there is no doubt about that! Aperitif in hand it was a good moment to continue my networking.

I managed to talk with the officers from the German Ministry for Education – Stefanie Schindler, Katrin Pardun and Rebecca Stock, next with with the representative of Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen from EU Commission for Youth, Sports and Education, and and Italian delegate Maria Antonietta from the Education Ministry as well as Alberto Steindler, President of ITS Institute, among many others. It was truly gratifying to make so many incredible connections and have the chance to speak face to face like this. These are powerful moments and these conversations matter.

An especially important conversation was with Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, the top United Nations official in the field of education, who reassured me of her commitment to climate education. This is especially gratifying and she invited the Climate Education Coalition to join the G20 Education Ministers meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil in October. Climate Education Coalition is the world’s largest civil society coalition working together for greening curricula worldwide and I have a pleasure to coordinate it on behalf of EARTHDAY.ORG. Coalition members were present at COP27, COP28 and at SB58 in Bonn, and we are eager to participate in the G20 Education Ministers meeting to promote climate education for youth.

UNESCO is hosting a separate education event in Fortaleza and it’s important we are in the room, so to get a personal invite is a real win. I confirm our readiness to participate and I thanked Ms.Giannini for her leadership on backing climate education on school curricula worldwide. Next the Mediterranean dinner was served and I was on a table with a group of really nice young liaison officers from the Italian Presidency. It was a beautiful end to my first day.

Myself at the entrance to the Miramare Castle, G7 poster in the background.

The magical Miramare by night.

Warships visible, guarding the coastline, while the G7 is in town

DAY 2: G7 Summit , Trieste, Italy
WEATHER: Caldo Africano – italian phrase for the warm desert air from Africa
MOOD: No nerves, 007 reporting for duty

7:15 AM: Wake up, no run – it was just too hot. Julie Desangles from the GPE delegation messaged me that we are meeting at 9AM at the Savoia Hotel again and will head to the conference venue together. This is all due to security reasons – we all have to move in our designated groups during the official session times.

I managed to write some emails, checked in on Anjola Ayodele and Shanaia Galvis – wonderful interns who support my Climate Education Coalition work – and on my way to meet the GPE group, I grabbed a quick breakfast at a local cafeteria. The food here is amazing but the coffee is exceptional.

By 9AM we are back in the thick of it again at the Savoia Hotel. In a busy crowd, full of conversations, I had a chance to talk with Fernanda Maria R.S Santos, a diplomat, from the Brazilian Embassy in Rome. We discussed the importance of getting climate education on the agenda at the G20 Education meeting in Fortaleza, in Brazil, and the COP30 climate conference in Belem in 2025. For EARTYHDAY.ORG the goal is to get at least 25 countries to integrate climate education into their Nationally Determined Contributions.

In simple words, our aim is to integrate climate education in the education policies of 25 countries. NDCs – Nationally Determined Contributions – basically represent a country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and reflects their environmental ambitions as it relates to mitigating climate change.

My role in Trieste is to encourage as many policymakers as I can to integrate climate education into their country’s NDCs by 2025 (which is the international year of NDC updates for the UN). To do that I cite the economic benefits as well as the social ones as outlined in EDO’s, NDCs Guide. Climate education eases student anxiety, helps younger generations make planet friendly choices, and will create a skilled workforce, ready to power the green economy.

9:15 AM: It’s time to move again, all delegates, each escorted by their designated security officers, take a short walk to enter the nearby Lloyd Triestino building – one of the palaces at the Piazza Unita d’Italia. It used to belong to a major shipping company but now it serves the city of Trieste and is a venue for the Summit.

While ministers and the heads of the various delegations went to the main negotiation room, the rest of us were directed to a listening room where we could watch the negotiations as they happened in real time. It was a really great spot for networking too as ministerial staff were there and I had a chance to network with the UK, German and the EU staff.

Minister Valditara of Italy gave the opening remarks, with other G7 Ministers of Education from Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States all following him. UNESCO, GPE, UNICEF and OECD, Brazil, the African Union and Ukraine had a chance to present their statements afterwards. Ukraine was invited to the Summit in relation to G7’s support of the nation, over their battles with Russia.

Opening remarks over it was time for the two main sessions of the day – ‘Valorizing Everyone’s Talents” and “Innovative Education and New Competencies for the Future”. They don’t exactly roll off the tongue but you get the idea!

11:40 AM: The first session starts, with policymakers exchanging views on the individual vs collective approach to education. They emphasize artificial intelligence, (AI), and vocational training. However, in some of the statements, “climate change” and “green transition” are clearly audible which makes me hopeful for the second session!

After lunch we head back to the ‘listening’ room. Stakeholders from GPE and UNESCO have tipped me off that they are going to highlight climate education specifically, but I hadn’t anticipated that some Ministers would do the same. Baroness Barran, representing the UK, announces that “education needs to evolve” and then brilliantly explains that climate education is already embedded in school curricula in the UK and why that is so important. Everyone seems to be really listening, I am!

Stefania Giannini from UNESCO followed afterwards and explained that there is a global movement for climate education emerging and it is being driven by young people and this is backed up by the Head of Education for Unesco, who emphasized that without education people can not contribute to climate action. Equally positive was the position of Global Partnership for Education (GPE), CEO Laura Frigenti, explaining that climate smart education systems can help children develop green skills which will be needed in future workers.

Surprisingly, and I was truly happy to hear it, all the ministers of education and heads of the delegations mentioned climate change, green transition or climate education. This message is catching hold!

It was particularly uplifting for me, as I have been involved in the climate education campaign globally since 2020 and I remember vividly in Glasgow at COP26 in 2021, some ministers of education asking me “what is climate education?”

Nobody is asking me that anymore. This G7 and this Summit are proof that our work at EARTHDAY.ORG has been effective, ministers are changing their minds and in the right direction.

View of the listening room, my fellow delegates from the education ministries listen to Stefania Giannini (on the screen) giving her remarks in the negotiation room.

US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona during his remarks at the G7.

5: 00 PM: I headed back to the hotel to catch up with my boss Kathleen Rogers to give her a short report of what’s going on, Kathleen is an experienced climate advocate and a great strategist, she has been to more than 15 COPs (UN Climate Conferences) and her feedback is always extremely helpful during political events like the G7.

Later I called Max Falcone from the World Bank Group who is a consultant for EARTHDAY.ORG, he helped get me here at the G7. Max is a great communicator and he gave me some good tips on how to present our campaign to policymakers, and most importantly he is Italian, so I couldn’t have a better advisor for an event in Trieste than him.

Advice sessions over I got ready for the evening and left for the most exciting part of the evening – the theater!

6:00 PM: After cutting through Piazza Unita d’Italia, the main square in Triste, I joined the other delegates at the golden hall of Teatro Verdi, just next to the conference venue. We are treated to an amazing musical recital of Italian classical music; including Puccini, Verdi and Mascagni, all performed by fantastic musicians and a chorus from Trieste. Everyone was by now much more relaxed and really enjoyed the closing dinner at the La Prefettura. It was the last chance to talk to policymakers and say goodbye to new friends.

I used the occasion to personally thank the Italian Minister of Education, Giuseppe Valditara, for organizing the Summit. Everyone seemed truly stunned by the glorious sunset and lovely food (again). It felt that everyone anticipated a powerful final declaration the following day, the last day of the G7.

Concert at Teatro Verdi

Lloyd Triestino (conference venue) at night.

DAY 3: Trieste
WEATHER: Still sunny, it’s a pity to depart!
MOOD: Really happy. It went better than expected, but much more to do!

The official declaration of the G7 Ministers of Education was adopted and you can read it here.

You will notice that the exact phrase “climate education” is not mentioned exactly, but the document states that G7 Education MInisters: “…. recognize the power of education to prepare for change and mitigate against key threats such us…climate change and it highlights the need for skills from early learning to professional competencies, including those needed to navigate the digital and green transitions.”

It is far from perfect but it is moving us in the right direction. At EARTHDAY.ORG and the Climate Education Coalition we will continue to work hard to make sure that in October at the G20 Education Summit in Fortaleza, climate education (and indigenous knowledge) stand at the center of the global vision for education. I hoped you enjoyed my Diary, there are more adventures coming I am sure!